Your surgeon will probably have advised you at the time of your stoma surgery whether it was designed as a temporary measure or a permanent one. However, stomas can sometimes be formed as part of emergency surgery, and in any case it is often difficult to take in all the information you are given before your operation. If you are not sure about where you stand regarding stoma reversal, speak to your stoma care nurse or GP.
Stoma reversal depends on the individual and the nature of the surgery. Colostomy and ileostomy reversals are relatively common, whereas urostomy reversals are less frequent. Some ostomates are given a temporary stoma but decide to keep it, because they worry about the effects of a reversal and do not wish to have another operation. Moreover, having a stoma often significantly improves quality of life because it eases or clears up the symptoms of the illness which necessitated surgery, and some patients are unwilling to risk compromising this new-found freedom.
The time between temporary stoma formation and reversal differs between different surgeons and hospitals, and your individual healing time; it can be as little as one month, but often it is between three and six months1. However, there is no ‘norm’. If you are ready for your reversal, or considering it, have an in-depth discussion with your consultant or nurse specialist about what surgery will involve, risks and possible complications, and the process of recovery afterwards.
It is important to understand and be realistic about how you will feel after reversal, so you don’t feel dispirited. You may well experience a lengthy period of disrupted bowel function, and being prepared for this will help you make the necessary adjustments and not become disappointed. Some patients experience complications such as small bowel obstruction, anastomotic leaks, fistula and hernia formation, and infection2. Again, your stoma care nurse and surgical team will be an invaluable source of advice and information. Note down any questions you would like answered and take them along to your meetings.
Many stoma charities have volunteers who have been through stoma reversal surgery and can offer advice from their own experience. There are also plenty of online message boards where people discuss what they have been through and offer help to each other. Find what works for you and use it in conjunction with clinical advice from your contact at the hospital.
Even if your stoma is temporary it is still important to maintain a good routine and healthy skin. You might like to have a look at the Changing Your Stoma Bag section of this website. Our CliniMed Careline team are knowledgeable about stoma products of all brands, and can help you find the right products for the time that you have a stoma. Give them a call on 0808 1596017.
1 Black, P., The implications of stoma reversal on patient outcome, Gastrointestinal Nursing, vol 9 no 4 May 2011
2 Taylor, C. and Morgan, L., Managing the risk of complications following stoma reversal surgery, Gastrointestinal Nursing, vol 8 no 5 June 2010